Comments at July 26, 2017 community meeting hosted by ATAG

These comments were voiced at a July 26, 2017, community meeting hosted by the Arlington Tree Action Group. (When mentioned by speakers, individual neighborhoods or affiliations are noted in parentheses.)

 

Why we are concerned about tree and habitat loss in Arlington

 

  • Arlington paints itself as a green community, attuned to climate change, and boasting LEED buildings; how does that square with relentless tree clearing?

 

  • Through the Georgetown University Climate Center, a new look at the County’s ordinances may prove a catalyst for change

 

  • (A Realtor) Concern that citizens do not know the value of their homes and are being conned into selling directly to a builder which makes monolithic mammoth homes more common

 

  • (Yorktown High School student) Arlington needs to be a place to start to combat climate change

 

  • It breaks our hearts to see old trees, “Civil War” trees, torn down

 

  • A decision made by a few people in the County a decade ago is being carried out despite new information and citizen concern

 

  • Big developments are destroying the beauty of Arlington

 

  • (East Falls Church) The beauty of shade trees and habitat for wildlife is being lost; seek better choices

 

  • (Lyon Park) Since moving here, there hasn’t been a day without a tear-down

 

  • (Lyon Park) County talks a “good line” but cares most about increasing square footage; we’re up against money and County’s rush for tax dollars

 

  • (Overlee) Tired of narrow problem-solving approach and narrow engineering solutions in how County deals with construction; worry about sharp increase in hard surfaces; County seems to work at cross purposes regarding managing stormwater (whether to save trees or construct the solution)

 

  • So much demolition; green space is disappearing; family is trying to save a 120-year-old oak by considering establishing a [conservation] trust

 

  • (Williamsburg) How can market forces be re-shaped to save trees?

 

  • (EF Church) Change is constant; how to guide it rather than allow it to roll over us?

 

  • (Williamsburg) Difficulty reconciling a County calling itself “world-class” when it does not live up to its pretensions, such as calls in the 2004 Urban Forestry Master Plan to have GIS data and tree inventory of cities like Palo Alto or Washington DC

 

  • (Ballston) Developments are being built right up to the street so trees die while still being counted; buses cut trees in half leaving mangled shapes in the cityscape

 

  • (Westover) Need to talk more about trees, educate people about trees and simple measures like “right tree, right place” and avoiding volcano mulching

 

  • Concerned to see two nearby acres of virgin forest bulldozed and all the flora and wildlife decimated

 

  • (Dominion Hills) Impact of destruction of forest on people and wildlife

 

  • There is a lot of legislation that does allow tree preservation; need top-down support for more forward-leaning actions; staff want to do the right thing but their hands are tied

 

  • (Westover) Dismay at clear-cutting; need very active negative publicity

 

  • (Dominion Hills) Ready to get engaged to preserve urban wildlife and urban plants

 

  • (Williamsburg) Concern about impact of stadium light on trees and wildlife

 

  • (Williamsburg) County allows extremely permissive building on property – including accessory structures coming within one foot of a neighbor’s property; a neighbor building a McMansion said construction would mean digging up nine of her trees which “may fall over on your house and kill you”; resident had to hire a lawyer to save a few of her own trees

 

  • (Williamsburg) It’s hard to always see trees being cut down; agrees Georgetown University climate center’s memo can be useful

 

  • (Overlee Knolls) Strains being put on the ecosystem

 

  • Alarm at loss of tree canopy, death by a thousand cuts; nothing wrong with new development; time not on our side; no replacement for killing a 100-year old tree

 

  • McMansionization is a problem; need more education and better care of trees; for example, if one branch comes down in a storm, citizens understand the whole tree does not need to be razed

 

  • There is a war on the environment; example of losing 100 trees at Ashlawn

 

  • (Arlington Forest) Need to keep schools from being built on parks; in Lubber Run, 109 trees will come down and it will be years before new trees make a difference

 

  • (Arlington Forest) Economic, regulatory and political forces need to be addressed

 

  • (Donaldson Run) County staff undertaking a 10-year old plan without considering new information that indicates it would not provide the benefits to the Chesapeake predicted and that many more trees will be lost than previously forecast.

 

Ideas for Action

 

  • Just as the County spreads information by hanging flyers on doorknobs or recycling bins, give every resident a flyer with instructions on how to care for trees

 

  • County Board members tell concerned citizens to contact staff, who bounce the problems back to the Board; to gain traction, ask ten friends and neighbors to write the Board saying they expect them to act to preserve green space

 

  • Require a permit to cut any tree over a certain size; count trees toward stormwater management; provide specific guidance on when a tree can’t be cut down

 

  • Investigate how so many special exemptions are given for huge homes

 

  • Require a public hearing process whenever large construction projects impact roads and daily life in a neighborhood

 

  • The Board should establish a position of Tree Ombudsman (perhaps a Board member), who helps ensure the County focuses on preserving trees

 

  • Review allowing residences to build on up to 40% of a lot, and challenge builders where homes appear to grossly exceed allowances

 

  • Stop permits for tear-downs and lot-clearing; expose the hypocrisy of those who are under the thumb of developers

 

  • Second the idea of requiring a permit to take down any tree of a certain size

 

  • Take further into account the economic value of trees

 

  • Multiply this kind of discussion all over the County so trees are talked about everywhere

 

  • Increase networking; link together concerned citizens with more resources and data; become the go-to for people wanting information about trees

 

  • Disappointed in the “Arlington Way”; need to find opportunities for ordinary citizens to have input; at present, a citizen has only two minutes to comment at Urban Forestry Commission

 

  • Need a united strategy to get the County to care about tree canopy

 

  • Encourage civic associations to put trees at the top of their list of priorities

 

  • Reduce fragmentation of County offices involved in saving trees and habitat

 

  • Expand actions to promote tree preservation to where citizens shop, work, and socialize

 

  • Hope to wake up one day and not hear chainsaws; when a building is going up, builders should have to arrange a public forum in the neighborhood where residents ask about impacts; builders need to listen to concerns and discuss them

 

  • Establish a Green Preservation Fund into which builders pay

 

  • Board needs to say “no” to stadium lighting which translates into more concrete and less flora and fauna; comments on POPS plan by August 11

 

  • Investigate the percentage of property that can be cleared; current proportions of what can be razed are unacceptable

 

  • Staff hide behind rules; Dillon rules do not mean you can’t save trees; look back at actual requirements – state staff has existing authorities

 

  • Answers lie in roughly equal parts: policy, economics, law; unveil the disconnect about how best to mitigate stormwater runoff (example of having to bring in urban forestry staff to explain to DES how effective trees are in preventing stormwater runoff); comment on POPS; look at incentive-based solutions such as tax credits for notable trees and other tax breaks; expose the herd mentality in tear-downs in which everyone involved believes it saves headaches

 

  • Investigate implications of upcoming HOV lanes on Route 66; more cars will pour through Route 50 and other stretches of central Arlington and decimate trees; cars idling at stop signs already killing trees in Arlington Forest; consider removing sewer line so not charged for water used to save trees

 

  • Ensure oversight of contractors used by County and Tree Stewards; poor practices as seen at Ashlawn, in topiary cuts, and actual examples of a contractor planting burlapped trees; volunteers can help but more County staff is needed for follow-up on healthy tree planting and maintenance; add a couple of people whose job it is to follow through

 

  • Problem is a failure of leadership at the top; County gives many exemptions

 

  • With more wood now coming from urban forests than from natural forests, heighten attention to need to preserve urban forest

 

  • Monitor and manage multifamily developments which bring in school-age children that drive the push for new schools which come at the expense of parks; focus on Planning Commission and Public Facilities Review Committee

 

  • Network civic associations, promote neighborhood watch as eyes and ears on problems that can be caught early; at same time, encourage all to address challenges independently

 

  • Build an information-sharing group

 

  • Lobby for more staff who can help preserve the urban forest

 

  • Second idea of tree-watchers in each neighborhood and sharing information so all know what’s going on across the County; neighborhood tree watch can help bring threats to trees to attention of staff; open web site can help facilitate this

 

  • File more FOIA requests to understand County choices and request better answers to why we face negative trends with respect to tree preservation

 

  • Impose huge penalties on builders who either don’t get the right permits, or don’t follow through on the commitments involved; large dollar amounts needed to get the attention of builders